Early goal sinks Valletta

Valletta were eliminated from the UEFA Champions League after losing 1-0 to FK Ekranas in the second leg of the second qualifying round. The Lithuanian champions therefore move on to the third qualifying round with a 4-2 aggregate score.

With Jonathan Caruana and Roderick Briffa both ruled out through suspension, Jesmond Zerafa employed Edmond Agius on the right flank and Dyson Falzon on the left with Ian Azzopardi as central defender together with Steve Borg. William da Silva and Alfred Effiong joined Michael Mifsud in attack. Denni, still not fully recovered from the injury sustained in the game against Tre Fiori, started the game on the bench and was included as a substitute.

Ekranas took just four minutes to forge ahead when off a freekick from the left, captain Ignas Dedura headed home from close range.

It was a cold shower for the Citizens whose first reaction occurred on 22 minutes but Alfred Effiong’s good run was halted by the Lithuanian rear-guard.

Eight minutes in the second half, goalkeeper Emilijus Zubas managed to turn into a corner a dangerous cross shot by Ryan Fenech. A long-distance shot by substitute Ian Zammit on 74 minutes ended wide.

Substitute Andrius Veli?ka went close to doubling the score five minutes from time but his goal-bound shot was blocked by a defender. A minute later, an inviting cross by Dyson Falzon from the left was met by Michael Mifsud who however hit just wide.

Finally in stoppage time, William da Silva served Dyson Falzon whose fine rising shot was turned into a corner by Zubas. From the resulting corner, Ian Azzopardi hit high.

EKRANAS Emilijus Zubas, Ram?nas Radavi?ius, Aurimas Ku?ys, Andrius Jokšas, Ignas Dedura, Mauro Alonso (70′ Andrius Veli?ka), Marko Andjelkovi?, Uchenna Umeh (89′ Jevgenij Moroz), Aurimas Vertelis (83′ Arnas Ribokas), Giedrius Tomkevi?ius, Dušan Matovi?.
Substitutes: Tadas Kauneckas, Marius Skinderis, Nerijus Sasnauskas, Tadas Markevi?ius
Coach: Valdas Urbonas

VALLETTA Andrew Hogg, Ian Azzopardi, Steve Borg, Ryan Fenech, Gilbert Agius, Edmond Agius, William Barbosa, Dyson Falzon, Alfred Effiong (67′ Ian Zammit), Kevin Sammut (54′ Denni), Michael Mifsud.
Substitutes: Yenez Cini, Ousseni Zongo, Kenneth Scicluna, Jamie Pace, Cleavon Frendo
Coach: Leonard Farrugia
Assistant Coach: Jesmond Zerafa

Referee: Augustus Constantin (ROM)
Assistant referees: Ionel Popa, George Adrian Vidan (ROM)
Fourth official: Adrian Comanescu (ROM)
Yellow Cards: Sammut, Andjelkovi?, Borg, Jokšas, Matovic, Denni
Goals: 4′ Ignas Dedura